Apple Patent Causes a Stir

Written By Jennifer Williams

Reviewed By Cynthia Amis

Apple has been no stranger to the courts recently, as it seems to be suing left and right in order to protect its designs. So it is not surprising that the recent patent that Apple was granted, having to do with webpage scrolling, has created quite a stir. It is not hard to imagine Apple using this patent to sue any and every smart phone developer who they claim is infringing on this patent. Thus the concern is not without merit, as it seems Apple has a team devoted to preventing any copying of its gadgets. However, with a full understanding of the patent that Apple was granted, some of the concern can be relieved.

To start with, it is important to know what patent infringement is and what is necessary to claim that your patent has been infringed. Patent infringement is the unauthorized using, making, or selling of a patented invention. A patent is directly infringed if another product or process uses all of the elements of the patent claim. This means that if a patented product consists of three elements, all three of those elements must be present in another product in order to claim infringement. Anything less than all of the elements being used in another product will not be considered direct infringement.

So what exactly are Apple’s claims in patent #7,966,578? Well, the claims are actually quite specific, which should provide some relief to all the other companies out there creating multi-touch devices. The first claim includes several aspects, which are: 1. That there be ‘a portable multifunction device with one or more processors, memory, and a touch screen display’; 2. That device must display ‘a portion of web page content in a stationary application window on the touch screen display, wherein the portion of web page content includes: a frame displaying a portion of frame content, and other content of the web page, comprising content of the web page other than the frame content’; 3. The device has to ‘detect a translation gesture by a single finger’ which will translate the content in the frame as well as the main content; and 4. The device must detect ‘a translation gesture by two fingers’ which will affect only the frame content and not the content on the main page. The other claims are basically the same concept with the modification of instead of specifying the number of fingers; the letters N and M are used to broaden the meaning of the patent.

So what does that all mean? Basically the patent covers the very specific act of being on a webpage where the main portion of the page is the main content and something on that webpage such as a Google map is the frame content. The patent covers being able to navigate the main page with one finger- i.e. swiping up and down to scroll- and navigating the content within the frame with two fingers- i.e. pinching to zoom in and out on the map. Without both of those things present in another product, there is no infringement.

I cannot claim to know another way to navigate a webpage on a touch screen phone, especially because I am an iPhone user and that is all I know. However, I am also not a phone developer at a place like Google or HTC. I find it hard to believe that those developers are unable to function around this patent without any infringement and thus it seems all the worry and concern can easily be laid to rest by looking closely at the claims of the patent.

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